CHRISTIAN TODAY DIGEST - WINTER 2010

From:-
TORCH TRUST, Torch House, Torch Way, Market Harborough, Leicestershire, LE16 9HL, U.K.
Telephone: +44 (0)1858 438260, Fax: +44 (0)1858 438275, email: info@torchtrust.org
Charity Number 1095904.

Contents

[This magazine has been jointly edited by Christian Today and Torch Trust for the Blind. All the articles were first published on the Christian Today website www.christiantoday.com over the last thee months.]

Welcome!

Welcome to this last edition of Christian Today Digest for 2010! We trust you're managing to keep warm in this cold, cold winter! Maybe this magazine will keep you even warmer as you enjoy its usual mix of Christian news from around the world!

Easter (and warm sunshine!) is some way off yet, but we thought we'd give you a taster of the books we're starting to prepare for the season. They will be available to purchase or borrow, in DAISY, giant print or braille, from the end of February.

First up, we have The Things He Carried, by Steve Cottrell. So what did our Lord Jesus carry as he went to the cross? For a start, there was the cross itself: and what of the crown of thorns, the seamless robe, His followers' disappointments, the hopes of God, the sins of the world, our sorrows, a broken heart ... Come on a journey to the cross with these Lent and Easter meditations. Cost £5.

24 Hours that Changed The World, by Nick Howard, covers in detail the last 24 hours of our Lord's life on earth. The author draws on all the Gospel accounts to piece together what happened on that momentous night and day.

We're also offering two Lent study courses: Rich Inheritance - Jesus' Legacy of Love (a York Course) at £3.50; and Lent For Everyone - Matthew (year A), by the popular author Tom Wright at £7.

And what about an Easter holiday? There will be a Torch group at the Skegness Spring Harvest just before Easter. The dates are 14th-19th April, and the cost is £400. If you would like to join this group, or you would like to know about other Torch holidays, please contact Torch on 01858 438260 or email holidays@torchtrust.org

Well, enjoy your magazine - with its encouragements, challenges, and general informative content.

Jill and the editors.

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80 million Bibles printed in China

The only authorised Bible-printing company in China has marked the printing of its eighty-millionth Bible this month, the government's official press agency announced.

Amity Printing Co, located in the eastern Chinese city of Nanjing, says it now prints one million copies a month. Since its founding in 1988, the printing company has grown to be one of the largest Bible publishers in the world.

"The production of 80 million Bible copies can be attributed to the world of China's Christians, and, more importantly, the country's reform and opening-up policy," said ZhonghuiQiu, chairman of the board of Amity Printing Co, according to Xinhua news agency.

Similarly, David Thorne, the Asia secretary of the United Bible Societies - which is Amity's partner in Bible printing - credited the Chinese government's support for the high volume of Bibles being published in the country.

About a quarter of the Bibles printed in the world today are made in China, noted XiaohongXu, secretary-general of the Three-Self Patriotic Movement (TSPM), which oversees Protestant churches.

In China, Protestant churches must register with the TSPM and China Christian Council in order to operate legally. The TSPM/CCC, however, is a government body that places submission to the state's authority at the same level as submission to Christ's authority. Many house churches refuse to be part of the TSPM/CCC because they argue that Christ is the head of the church, not the government.

In addition to Bibles in Chinese, Amity also publishes Scripture in English, French, Spanish, and braille. It has exported more than 26 million Bibles to over 60 countries, or nearly a third of its total publication, noted Qiu.

Religious freedom groups say there are more than 100 million believers in China, including house church Christians.

Christians that do not belong to TSPM/CCC churches, which make up the majority of believers in China, and those that live in rural areas have a difficult time obtaining a Bible. Moreover, even with the rapid pace of Bible printing in China these days, tens of millions of Chinese Christians do not have a Bible because of shortage of supply or distribution restrictions.

"One important fact to remember about Bibles and China is that China is still a restricted nation. The Communist government seeks to control Christian activities, including Bible distribution," wrote Todd Nettleton, director of media development for the Voice of the Martyrs USA, in a column titled, Smuggle Bibles into China? It's Still Necessary, published on the Christianity Today website in August. Nettleton pointed to the case of Christian bookstore owner Shi Weihan, who is serving a three-year sentence in jail for printing and distributing Bibles without government permission. The VOM spokesman also noted that out of the five approved religions in China, only Christianity's holy book cannot be sold at all public bookstores.

He said, "I am thankful for every Bible legally printed and distributed in China. I hope someday the government will allow enough Bible printing to meet the needs of the growing Chinese church."

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Cameron's plans to measure happiness

The leaders of Christian organisations have come out in support of controversial plans by David Cameron to measure happiness in the UK.

The Prime Minister expressed his intention this week to measure "general well-being" alongside economic success as an indicator of the state of affairs in the UK. It is expected that the happiness index will be used to guide Government policy.

In a joint letter to the Guardian today, CAFOD director Chris Bain, Tearfund Chief Executive Matthew Frost and the Director of theology think tank Theos, Paul Woolley, welcomed the move, saying it was important that the Government recognise that economic growth was not the only driver towards human fulfilment.

"We urge the UK government to take a global lead and go further than just measuring the happiness of those in this country by bringing in policies that support the sustainable economic activities of the world's poorest," they said. "If we are truly to flourish, we must all work to shape a new, fair and accountable market system that puts people and our environment right at its centre."

In their recently published joint report, Wholly Living, the three organisations warn that economic recovery will be incomplete so long as individualism and self-interest remain at its heart. They argue that it is time to look beyond material indicators of well-being to an "inclusive" economic system "that improves the quality of our relationships and embeds the practice of virtue in its intellectual and religious forms".

The report, out last month, argues that politics is about more than economics and that "life is about more than quarterly growth figures". It says: "Flourishing as a human being is, thus, not simply a matter of respecting people's choice and maximising their purchasing power. Rather, it demands that we recognise, respect and try to realise everyone's capacity for creativity, productivity, responsibility and generosity."

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Christians in Iraq: the determination to stay

By SuhaRassam

The massacre that took place on the 31st October 2010 at the Church of Sayyidat al-Najat (Our Lady of Deliverance) is one of the most savage attacks that have been inflicted on the Christians of Iraq since 2003.

Since the invasion of Iraq in March 2003, Christians have been kidnapped, tortured, raped and evicted from their homes with the threat of either convert to Islam or leave or else.

Over sixty houses of worship have been destroyed, 17 religious leaders were kidnapped, some tortured and five killed including the bishop of Mosul and a Protestant pastor. However despite the continued dangerous situation in Mosul, Baghdad seemed a relatively safe place for the Christians.

The last attack on a church in Baghdad occurred on the 12th of July 2009 and the last priest kidnapped was on 6th June 2007. This is why this barbaric attack, followed ten days later by a series of bombings and mortar attacks targeting Christian homes in six districts of Baghdad killing five people and destroying many homes, is of great significance.

As we followed the news from Mosul where Christians were forced out of their homes in the autumn of 2008, followed the scattered murder of individuals in their homes throughout 2009 and the murder of students as they were travelling to university in Mosul, we thought that al-Qaeda had moved to Mosul and believed the leaders who claimed that it had been eradicated from Baghdad. Unfortunately this was not true and nobody can be trusted anymore.

It is difficult to escape the conclusion that these attacks are part of a broader effort by some elements in the Middle East to drive Christianity from its heartland. Already more than half the Christian community of Iraq has left to neighbouring countries and subsequently to western countries. Those who are left are living in fear and feel indignant that nobody can protect them.

However despite all these difficulties there is still a large number of the faithful determined to stay - come what may. They feel that this is their country in which their ancestors lived for thousands of years and would like to remain as witnesses to their faith and heritage. With a spirit of endurance and fortitude, they gathered in the damaged church, still stained with the blood of its martyrs the following Sunday, to say mass. Many Muslims who were indignant at what happened and wanted to show their solidarity with the Christian community joined them.

The difficult question that poses itself is what could be done to protect these helpless people? An immediate solution is to ask the security authorities in Iraq to take appropriate steps to protect the Christian community but in the absence of a strong government what else could be done?

The leader of the Syrian Catholic church, Patriarch Ignatius Joseph III Daood, called on the international community to take action. He stated: "Christians are slaughtered in Iraq, in their houses and churches, and the so called free world is watching in complete indifference, interested only in responding in a way that is politically correct and economically opportunistic, but in reality is hypocritical."

He demanded that the US congress, the United Nations, the International commission of Human Rights and the League of Arab States condemn the attack and take the appropriate action to defend innocent Christians brutally singled out because of their religion in Iraq and some other Middle Eastern countries.

The Archbishop of the Syrian Catholic Church in Baghdad MattiMattoka demanded that the security authorities in Iraq provide protection for places of worship for Christians, especially on Sundays and that Muslim religious leaders have a duty to condemn these terrorist attacks in public and highlight the religious texts, which support the spirit of tolerance and peaceful co-existence between religions.

He also recommended a change in the curriculum at all levels and in all Muslim countries, in particular the withdrawal of all the words of hatred against the followers of other religions. He also demanded of the media to promote co-operation among citizens with the elimination of religious intolerance, using themes from the principles of sociology, philosophy, history and comparative religion.

What happened in Sayyidat al-Najat is a true human and religious catastrophe. But what is worse is that such catastrophes have been happening to Eastern Christians for years, and Christians in the western world are ignorant of it. There is ignorance of the ancient Christian presence in Iraq and the rest of the Middle East.

It is time for Christians in the West to take interest in their brothers and sisters of the faith and educate themselves about their history. They will then be stimulated to show true solidarity with them and encourage their governments to do something. The Christian community of the Middle East is haemorrhaging and they should support it in every possible way. The exodus of Christians from their original homelands is not only a tragedy for the Iraqi faithful themselves but a disaster for all Christians. Their flight removes a moderating force from the Middle East. Christians in the region have for centuries acted as bridge builders between East and West. As the faithful flee, the chance of understanding between the historically Christian and Muslim civilisations is reduced.

[SuhaRassam is founder of the charity Iraqi Christians in Need and author of new book, Christianity in Iraq.]

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Forgiveness is key to Middle East peace

The Bishop of Shrewsbury says Israelis and Palestinians must let go of past injustices if they are to have a chance of lasting peace.

Writing in a pastoral letter, Bishop Mark Rylands said that peace work was being hampered "as each generation sets about implanting in the next the memories of insults, injustices, age-old hatreds and suspicions". He added that remembering past hurts and bitterness would only cause "untold damage. The revenge cycle keeps turning," he said.

The bishop said a permanent peace deal would only come when both sides were prepared to forgive.

He said: "This month we are asked to remember with thanksgiving those who gave their lives in the two Great Wars to preserve freedom in Europe and the world. We remember how an evil regime that exterminated six million Jews was defeated. For this we are grateful. There are circumstances, however, when remembering is not always a positive experience. For instance, in the Holy Land, remembering the past too insistently has been a deeply divisive power and a constricting source of conflict in the present. If different people groups, in particular, cannot let go of past injustices, sufferings and tragedies then it makes it impossible to bring creative ideas for the future."

He went on to say that forgiveness was the "only common sense way ahead" and that with Israelis and Palestinians taking "courageous" steps towards reconciliation in the latest round of peace talks, a permanent peace was "not just fantasy".

"Perhaps the key is to realise that forgiveness must always be premature. As he was being nailed to the cross, Jesus cried out: 'Father forgive them, they know not what they do'," he said.

"With humans this type of forgiveness seems impossible, but with God's strength and his love sustaining us we can be set free from the bitterness of other people's wounding actions. We are able to forgive."

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Christians told to stand up for what they believe in

The Archbishop of York has called on Christians to have a robust faith and stand up for what they believe in.

Writing in the latest edition of UCB's Prayer for Today magazine, Dr John Sentamu said people in Britain should "celebrate what makes us a Christian nation" and "reclaim the symbols and emblems of our nation from those that abuse them for their own ends".

He urged Christians to have "robustness" in their national identity as well as their faith. "We need to stand up for what we believe in, confident that it will withstand the pressures and probing that the world throws at it."

His comments come as the case continues over whether a Christian couple are "fit" to foster children because of their opposition to homosexuality. Eunice and Owen Johns had their application to foster children withdrawn by Derby City Council because they said they would not be able to tell children that homosexuality was an acceptable lifestyle.

Equality laws have forced all but one of the Catholic adoption agencies in the country to close down or secularise their ethos.

The landmark case against the Johns and other instances of Christians being denied a right to uphold or express their beliefs have left some feeling that Christianity is being marginalised in Britain.

The growing concern has prompted the Christian Broadcasting Council and Christian Concern to hold a joint conference next month addressing discrimination against Christians in Britain. Keynote speakers at the Cry Freedom conference include the former Bishop of Rochester, the Rt Rev Michael Nazir-Ali and Bible Society's Senior Officer in the Houses of Parliament, David Landrum.

He said: "There are powerful forces in high places, ideologies, philosophies and idols in the political arena. Where do we fit in ... or don't we?"

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Helping Britain's Poor

"Cuts or no cuts, the church must seize the opportunity to help Britain's poor," says Marianne Clough, National PR Manager for Christians Against Poverty.

Chancellor George Osbourne scrapped Child Benefit for higher earners and called it fair and necessary. Typically everyone quoted on the subject says it is - or it isn't - depending which side of the income line they fall, it seems.

It is an historic change because it will be the first time the government has means-tested families for this benefit since "family allowance" was brought in to help families in the post-war era of housing shortages and food rationing. Sadly, the basic needs of those times are the same for the people we look after at Christians Against Poverty.

Replace housing shortages with home repossessions and food rationing with empty cupboards and, yes, even in consumerist 2010, life for some doesn't look so very different. It is perhaps worse because those who "have not" are compounded by a feeling of failure rather than the all-in-it-together spirit of the forties.

One of our recent clients was panic-stricken as September approached because she had nothing with which to buy uniforms for her children. When she was visited by the local CAP representative, there really was nothing in the kitchen to feed the family.

Thankfully Child Benefit remains for people in these situations and for the vast majority of the clients we help. This benefit currently amounts to an extra £1,752.40 a year for a family with two children, and 1.2 million households will see that disappear, saving the country £1billion. The average income for CAP clients is just £11,700 and the idea of having a salary of £44,000 is a distant dream - an uncomfortable thought which those who are better off could do with remembering.

The Joseph Rowntree Foundation says people need a gross income of £14,400 to live to an acceptable standard in this country but our experience shows that for a variety of reasons, there are many below that line. In the last ten years, inflation has risen by 23 per cent but key essentials cost 38 per cent more.

While this kind of poverty exists, alongside the social norms of "you deserve more, buy now and pay later" the church has a lot to do.

Energy bills may double over the next decade, say reports today, and VAT rises will hit the very poorest hardest in the New Year. Meanwhile, very few people know why they should budget, let alone how.

Christians Against Poverty is delighted to see a record number of churches signing up to learn how to deliver a course in their communities called CAP Money. It is a money management course, done in just three sessions, and shows people how to set a household budget and how to stick to it and be content.

Very recently, 75 different churches attended a training course to learn how to deliver CAP Money. They join 600 more churches in the UK now offering this as part of their outreach in the community - seriously good news for the country.

Commentators are united in saying there are plenty of changes ahead as the Government tries to chip away at the deficit, so anything that Christians can do to prepare people has to be good.

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"I need God more than arms and legs"

Nick Vujicic is a Christian motivational speaker who gave his life to Jesus Christ at the age of 15 when he read the story of the blind man and Jesus in John 9.

When people asked Jesus why the man was born blind, he said it was for the works of God to be revealed through him.

Vujicic, president of the non-profit Life Without Limbs, said at the Seattle Harvest event, "He healed the physical body of the blind man (in John 9). But what I said to God is, 'I don't know what your plan is, but I trust you. I need you not just for arms and legs, [but] I need peace. I need forgiveness. I need purpose'".

Vujicic, who was born with no arms or legs, shared his inspiring story to a crowd of 15,000 at the Key Arena in Seattle on Sunday. More than 93,000 people watched the event online and 1,692 accepted the invitation at the end of the night to commit their lives to Jesus.

The Australian-born motivational speaker, who has inspired thousands of people worldwide, shared that when God does not grant a person the miracle they prayed for - Vujicic had prayed for his arms and legs to miraculously grow - God can perform another kind of miracle.

"God can still use you to be a miracle for someone else to bring them to the truth and knowledge of Jesus Christ," he said.

Earlier in the evening, Greg Laurie, lead pastor behind the Harvest Crusades and senior pastor of Harvest Christian Fellowship in Riverside, California, addressed the question of why there is suffering in the world. He said humans, in the broad sense, are responsible for the problems we face in the world today. The illnesses, disabilities, and death are all a result of sin, he said. "The general tendency is to place all the blame for all of the problems and suffering of humanity on the shoulders of God," said Laurie. "God gave us the ability to choose and our first parents, Adam and Eve, made the wrong choice in the Garden of Eden."

Vujicic, who has learned to overcome bitterness over his physical condition, left the crowd with a message on how to be happy. Some people say they are not going to be happy until they get married, have a job, save up money, or have more friends, said the author of new book Life Without Limits.

But having those things will not necessarily make you happy, he said. "It's not about the outside. It is about being complete on the inside," said Vujicic. "Because I have seen so many people complete on the outside but who don't know the truth. It is the truth that sets you free and who the son sets free is free indeed."

Over the course of the three-day festival, 39,000 people attended in person, 162,717 watched the webcast, and 4,225 made decisions for Christ.

The Seattle event was the last Harvest crusade scheduled this year. The next Harvest event will be in Auckland, New Zealand, in June 2011.

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New generation of risk takers for Christ

It has been three years since Emerging Culture - the youth offshoot of Share Jesus International - launched its leadership training for young people and the fruits are beginning to show.

Starting up brand new university missions, engaging in outreach on their local estates, launching missional businesses and helping their towns achieve Fair Trade status are just some of the recent achievements of graduates from the course.

FRESH is all about inspiring and equipping young people to bring about change in society and use their gifts for the kingdom of God, says Dot Tyler, Manager of Emerging Culture.

The course takes young people away for a training weekend in which they enjoy biblical teaching and practical experience, before returning to their home churches, which are tasked with mentoring and releasing them. The result is communities that are changed as the young leaders and their churches partner in meeting the needs of the people around them.

"Training young people in our churches and communities is paramount to both the today and tomorrow of the local church," says Dot. "In these changing, uncertain and turbulent times the church has a great opportunity to respond and help develop our young people in a way that helps bring about change in our society."

So far, FRESH has trained around 100 young leaders and it hopes to train many more in the future.

Says Dot: "It is essential that we are building up our young people to see the needs in their area, recognise that they can do something about it and facilitate them to respond in a way that points to Jesus Christ."

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Cry Justice for Pakistani Christians

by Andy Dipper, CEO Release

Pakistani Christian, Asia Bibi (45), was sentenced to death last week. Her five children and husband are devastated. This is a landmark case as she is the first woman in Pakistan sentenced to death under the 295-C Blasphemy Law.

Ironically, the Blasphemy Laws were brought onto the statute at the time of partition with India in order to protect non-muslims living in Pakistan, similarly non-Hindus protected in India. It is ironic because Asia Bibi during the course of her work as a labourer in the fields began with a discussion about Christianity and Islam, Jesus and Mohammed. These laws that were intended to allow such discussion and even disagreement have now been used to condemn a working mum to death. It is hard to imagine such a "crime" as being on a par with murder, rape and violent robbery.

It all began when some of the women she worked with had been putting her under pressure to renounce her Christian faith and accept Islam. On June 19, 2009, the women pressed Asia about Islam. She responded by sharing with them about her faith in Christ. She spoke of how Jesus Christ had died on the cross for their sins and then asked them what Mohammed had done for them.

On hearing this response the Muslim women became very angry and began to beat her. Some men took Asia by force and locked her in a room. They used the PA system of a local mosque to broadcast plans to punish Asia by blackening her face and parading her through the village on a donkey. A mob formed and Asia was violently abused by Muslim villagers and clerics. Her children were also beaten. However, some Christians informed the police and Asia was taken into protective custody. Pressure to charge her was brought to bear by Muslim leaders. Sentence was passed yesterday.

Asia was also fined £728 - the equivalent of two-and-a half years' salary for an unskilled worker.

It is a crushing blow for Asia, who was hoping to be acquitted and return to her husband and children.

This week an appeal will be filed against the death sentence at the High Court in Lahore. It is a high profile case in Pakistan and far beyond. It is dangerous for the defence lawyer to stand up in court on Asia's behalf, but for her and her family they have already received death threats from extremists. These are troubling times when a legal system set up to protect and enforce justice is treating a woman who spoke her mind as such a dangerous risk to society that the only punishment is execution.

Release International and its partners in Pakistan have supported persecuted and imprisoned Christians for many years. Men and women, children and the elderly have received practical, legal and emotional support. This week our partners will be visiting Asia in prison and her family in Lahore. Throughout this year a campaign has been running to challenge the Pakistani Government on their legal provisions, particularly for marginalised Christians. So far more than 37,000 people have signed the petition. More information can be found at http://www.releaseinternational.org/pages/take-action/current-campaign.php

I urge you to join the campaign by signing the petition, as together we seek a better way, where the marginalised are protected under the law. Please especially pray for Asia Bibi today, and for her family. Be the voice of persecuted Christians in Pakistan.

[Through its international network of missions, Release supports Christians imprisoned for their faith and their families in 30 nations. It supports church workers, pastors and their families, and provides training, Bibles, Christian literature and broadcasts. Release is a member of the UK organisations Global Connections and the Evangelical Alliance. For a country profile on Pakistan please follow this link: http://www.releaseinternational.org/pages/country-profiles/pakistan.php

For further information, please contact Andrew Boyd on 01903 741184, 07919 311993; or Release International on 01689 823491 or by email at info@releaseinternational.org

And for more information on Release International, please go to: www.releaseinternational.org]

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"Prepare for persecution"

Barnabas Fund invited churches in the UK to dedicate one Sunday in November to the issue of persecution around the world - as well as at home.

The theme of this year's Suffering Church Sunday, "Be on Your Guard", reflected Barnabas Fund's growing concerns over the freedom of Christians in the West. It described as "worrying" the case this week of Eunice and Owen Johns to decide whether their Christian beliefs make them unfit to foster children.

"The outright violence and injustice endured by our brothers and sisters throughout the non-Western world, like the atrocious hostage siege in Iraq on Sunday, is what we tend to consider persecution. But more insidious threats are creeping into Western society - and we need to be prepared," the group said.

It warned that full religious liberty, including the freedom to choose one's faith, was "under attack". It said religious liberty was being "publicly undermined" by world leaders on the international stage, including US President Barack Obama, US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and British Home Secretary Theresa May, who have adopted the term "freedom of worship" instead of "freedom of religion".

Its concerns are shared by Ashley Samelson, International Programmes Director for the Becket Fund for Religious Liberty, who expressed concern over the case of the Johns. "Any person of faith knows that religious exercise is about a lot more than freedom of worship. It's about the right to dress according to one's religious dictates, to preach openly, to evangelise, to engage in the public square," she said.

Barnabas Fund is asking churches in the UK to remember Christians in other parts of the world who are suffering for their faith but also equip themselves to be ready for persecution too.

Dr Patrick Sookhdeo, International Director of Barnabas Fund, said: "It is understandable in the West - a bastion of freedom and tolerance - Christians tend to think that persecution is something that happens only to believers in far-flung places. But it is becoming increasingly apparent that we too need to steel ourselves for suffering if we are going to make a stand for Christ."

Barnabas Fund is offering churches free resources for its Suffering Church Sunday, including a DVD, sermon outline, Bible study and prayer/response cards.

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Trapped Chilean miners turned to Christ

One of the trapped miners rescued last month in Chile has told of the conversion of many of his colleagues during the ordeal. Jose Henriquez was the 24th man to be brought to the surface. He told thousands of people at the Luis Palau festival in Santiago that 22 out of the 33 trapped miners turned to Christ whilst waiting to be rescued.

During his time underground, Henriquez had become something of a spiritual leader to the trapped men, who called him "The Pastor". He told the crowds that he had requested and received biblical audio messages from Palau whilst underground.

After thousands of people made a public commitment to Christ at the festival, Henriquez told Palau: "I do hope they will follow through and walk with Christ for life." The six day mission was attended by 145,000 and encompassed the coastal city of Vina del Mar.

In a meeting with President Sebastian Piñera, Palau spoke of the importance of public officials recognising God in their statements and speeches, as he quoted 1 Samuel 2:30 which states: "Those who honour me, I will honour."

Following the successful rescue of the miners, Piñera praised the faith of the miners' families. Some of the miners were seen praying in the moments after they emerged from the escape capsule. Mario Sepulveda, the second miner to be freed, said he had "held on to God's hand" throughout the ordeal, while another freed miner, Jimmy Sanchez, said God "never left us down here".

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Wary of Bible at work?

"The Bible is everything, isn't it?" says Graham Ledger, 55, a bus driver from Cheltenham. He has one next to him on his bus. It sits, everyday, beside the ticket machine.

"I brought it to read, then people started to comment on it," says Graham. "I said it was a great book."

But, according to research carried out by Bible Society, not everyone is as happy as Graham to take a Bible to work. While most Christians said they would feel fine having their Bible at work, 43 per cent said they would feel uncomfortable actually getting it out to read and almost a third were worried about what work colleagues might think.

In fact, Christians are more likely to feel uncomfortable about having their Bible on display at work than their work colleagues. Seventy five per cent of atheists questioned said they would not consider it to be a problem.

The online survey for Bible Society was carried out by Christian Research and ICM and comes after a number of high profile cases where Christians have found themselves in trouble for encouraging people to think about faith in God or for offering to pray with people in the workplace.

It found that while Christians may feel uncomfortable about reading their Bible at work, in breaks or at lunchtimes, only 14 per cent of workers would feel uncomfortable if they did it and as many as half would be happy to talk about the Bible with Christian colleagues.

Benita Hewitt from Christian Research says: "We wanted to see, in the light of news stories about Christians getting into trouble at work, how people felt about openly reading a Bible at work. Interestingly we found that 60 per cent of workers think their employer wouldn't see it as a problem at all and only 2 per cent felt that openly reading the Bible at work might lead to a formal response."

The research was released as part of Bible Society's Take Your Bible to Work Day on 25 October when Christians across the country were invited to do more than just celebrate the Bible in church and take a Bible to work as a statement of faith. Taking a Bible to work was one of six ways churchgoers were invited to celebrate the Bible's message of freedom as part of this year's Bible Sunday on 24 October and to demonstrate how the Bible isn't just for Sunday; it's for the whole of life and for everyone, everywhere.

Mike Keene, who is Parks Horticultural Officer at Chelmsford Borough Council, either takes his Bible into work or uses an email Bible reading resource at his desk. While he's had curiosity, surprise and interest from workmates, Mike says that he's "never felt awkward" about reading his Bible at work - and his employer has no objection to his having a Bible at work

Ann Holt, Bible Society's Director of Programme, says: "In the culturally diverse climate in which we live, we are urging sensitivity and remind people that they do need to bear in mind their conditions of employment when deciding whether to take their Bible to work and to be considerate towards others who may not share their views.

"However, while we recognise the plural nature of our culture, we are inviting people to take their Bible to work because we believe it is their right to do so in a free society. We believe the Bible's message provides a framework for living the whole of life, and is not simply a resource for personal piety or a support for those who like religion."

Reacting to the survey results, Ann says, "There are a variety of issues here from a misplaced fear about a hostile reception to having a Bible at work to a lack of certainty about what to do with it if you do take it to work. This makes the need to break down the divide between the sacred and the secular all the more urgent. We need more training on the significance of the Bible in our everyday lives."

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